by Sauron Gorthaur
In the halls of Aulë, the forge was dark and cold. The Vala of the Earth sat staring into the dead embers of that morning's fires, but he did not have the heart to lift the hammer lying on the stones before him and continue the labor that usually brought him such joy.
He had failed.
Lifting the hammer, he turned it gently in his rough hands, running his thumb over the iron head as he thought of all the beautiful works that it had brought into being…all for nothing.
He bent his head, his brown hair falling in a disordered tangle about his noble face, a diamond sheen forming in his smoke-grey eyes, his heart beating like a heavy hammer in his chest. He knew the news should bring him joy, that by his efforts Ossë's rage had been cooled and the Maia of Ulmo pardoned for all his misdeeds, a gladness that one at least had been saved from Melkor's iron grip, but he could not bring himself to rejoice. He had not succeeded in his mission, for only Ossë had returned, and no other.
Aulë had hoped, beyond hope, that news of the Valar's mercy and kindness toward a wayward Maia and their offer of redemption might reach beyond the sea, into the heart of Arda, and through the darkness of Melkor to reach the ears of one who was still dearer to his heart than gold.
But no answer came.
Finally, his tears fell, and the Lord of the Earth wept, letting the hammer that had once belonged to his apprentice fall with a clatter to the floor.
"Child," he wept, "oh Mairon, don't you understand that I did this for you?"